Prof Mark Reed

Professor Mark Reed

Mark Reed, Professor in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research at Birmingham City University.

Sustainable Uplands was a collaborative project involving Birmingham City University and several others to help people adapt to change in the UK’s peatlands and find ways of financing the restoration of peatland habitats.

Research led by Birmingham City University resulted in the launch of the UK Peatland Code in 2013, to channel business sponsorship into the preservation and restoration of these habitats that are crucial for UK society. Peatlands include places such as the Peak District and Scottish Highlands. They provide 70 per cent of the UK’s drinking water, and the peat soils hold a large amount of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

A recent Commission of Inquiry by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature concluded that around 80 percent of peatlands have been degraded in some way. The UK Government asked the University to research the development of a UK Peatland Code that could facilitate private investment in peatland restoration. This involved case study research of uplands across the UK and collaboration with German researchers who have developed similar schemes for their peatlands.

Research has clearly demonstrated that over appropriate timeframes (e.g. 30-100 year contracts) good practice peatland restoration can deliver significant benefits for climate change. The research has demonstrated that there is a strong interest in sponsoring peatland restoration from the private sector (notably from food and drink, hospitality and horticulture) and corporations are willing to pay a premium for UK-based projects that deliver climate change befefits alongside biodiversity and water benefits. However, the research showed that investors need appropriate Government-backed guidance to give them confidence that their investments will deliver these benefits, and guidance is needed to ensure landowners follow good practice restoration. Birmingham City University therefore led the development of a UK Peatland Code, funded by Defra and launched by the Environment Minister in 2013, with the support of Environment Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Peatland Code was launched in 2013 by the Environment Minister, and has the potential to be used as a template for similar initiatives internationally. Defra’s Deputy Director of Sustainable Land and Rural Evidence and Analysis has stated:

“BCU has made a significant contribution to the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda within Defra, with work [they] led on the UK Peatland Code featuring prominently in the Defra Payment for Ecosystem Services Action Plan. Overall this research has made a considerable contribution and provided us with valuable lessons for the development of Payment for Ecosystem Service schemes in the UK.”

With contracting Government budgets for nature conservation around the world, there is considerable interest in the potential for industry to pay for measures that can enable society to continue getting the services we have come to expect from nature. This research has helped pioneer this approach in the UK.

Find out more about the project

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Mark Reed

Mark Reed

Professor in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research at Birmingham City University